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Rogue Mutt Classics: Child’s Play

August 22, 2011

YA writers would probably savage me like that woman who wrote a critical piece in The Wall Street Journal about the darkness of YA books.  #yasaves!  Um, not me it didn’t but whatever floats your boat.


OK, time for a shocking confession:  I am an adult.  And I like reading adult situations.  I’m not one of those grownups who goes around reading Harry Potter and Twilight and whatever else the kids are reading these days.

How I came to this conclusion was a three-part process.  First I was reading Father of the Rain by Lily King.  In the first part of the book, the protagonist and narrator Daley is 11 years old.  I had a devil of a time plowing through this part of the book.

Here’s what I said:

This first part of the story bored me. It all seemed so cliche, like something taken out of a Judy Blume novel or an After School special about coping with divorce and drinking. Even the idea of using Watergate as a backdrop is a cliche. (For instance, I used this in a short story 5 years ago–if you have a Kindle you can read it as part of my collection “The Carnival Papers.” It also took place in Massachusetts.)

And then two paragraphs later I attempted to analyze why I felt this way:

I’m not sure why exactly the first part of the book didn’t work for me and the second part did. It might have to do that as an adult I can relate a lot easier to Daley’s struggles as an adult than as a child. Especially since unlike 50% of people my parents didn’t divorce–and didn’t drink either–so none of that really hits home for me. Whereas an adult trying to reconnect with a parent is something I can understand better.

That’s when it all came together in my brain.  Though a couple of other things added to this conclusion.

First, I was bored at work and rereading my series, Tales of the Scarlet Knight, now that I finished it.  What I noticed is that I liked the later stories better, where our superhero Emma Earl is older and starts getting involved in adult situations like having sex, getting knocked up, and becoming a mother.  The first three stories where she was still more or less a girl and pining over the cute guy she works with at the museum were OK, but I didn’t enjoy it as much after having read the later stuff–especially the awesome sixth story.

Second was I began writing a prequel to that series that focuses on the witch characters, primarily the younger one named Sylvia Joubert.  When I started that story, Sylvia was just three years old.  A couple chapters later she’s seven and then thirteen.  Finally, mercifully, we get to where she’s more of a grownup and then things became slightly more interesting.  Part of this is due to the type of narration I’m using, that will probably be the subject of a future entry.  Still, a lot of it was because I wanted to get back to the more adult situations.  That’s more of my comfort zone.  And as I theorized in my review, it probably also resonates better with me.

Probably if you’re one of the many people who has kids then those issues might resonate better with you.  I don’t have kids–and Satan willing never will–so that stuff doesn’t really hit me where I live anymore.  And stuff like divorce or an abusive parent isn’t going to resonate with me because that’s now I grew up.

Like a lot of things, though, this is just a matter of personal preference.  I’m not here to say that no adult should read or write kids/YA.  If that’s what you like then that’s what you like and I’m not going to say any different.  It’s just not my bag.

The lesson is again that books are wildly subjective and what may be right for you, may not be right for some.  That’s something I need to keep in mind when I pick out books and when I write books.


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  1. I know young adults that start having sex at the age of fourteen. I’ve no idea why it is absent in books. I kind of think that many young adult writers avoid these kinds of things to write preachy novels that want kids to behave a certain way. Thing is, the kids that were already going to behave that way are the ones that buy those books. The hellions, on the other hand, don’t read. YA is kind of a strange phenomenon of boy obsession (Freud would have a hayday with it) without any of the payoff (I think) because people believe that once the payoff has been given then it makes the main character uninteresting.

  2. Have you read the Ender Series by Orson Scott Card?

  3. I write for kids, therefore I read kid lit as a study. Some stories are awesome…. but more for their fantastical creations than story alone. For my own personal entertainment I read adult books, because I am one and it’s more fulfilling.

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